Category Archives: Musings

These posts are a variety of categories, ruminations, or just plain don’t fall into other categories.

Ode to The Slow Life

I will never forget the morning I couldn’t feel my nose.

It was a culminating event, driven by months upon months of increasing pressure at my job as a Complex Project Manager.  You might think that working virtual (from home) would decrease the stress and pressure.  But the previous eighteen months had seen three downsizings of my work group from 600 people to the 50 of us left at that point.   Each outsourcing and RIF took with it the easy projects – those no-brainer tasks that could be whipped out in minutes thus allowing sufficient time to dote on the bloody FUBARs.

So where we had once carried 30  –  35 projects each, with perhaps 5 being the latter category, we now carried 35  – 40 bloody FUBARs.  24/7 pagers made it difficult to fall asleep, lest one be startled awake at 0200 and have to run across the house and fire up the computer or jump on a conference call.  We interfaced with 18 different software programs to manage the tasks.  Some Unix, some Windows, some who-knows-what and most without interfaces to the others.

EVERYTHING was needed yesterday.   Type fast, think fast, act fast, and good Lord don’t mess it up and have to do it again.

So, back to that morning.   I didn’t realize that I had not been sleeping.  Oh, I knew I was TIRED.   But I didn’t realize how acute the situation had become.  In an act of pure defiance, my brain took over and started shutting down my body.  My hands and feet and nose were stone cold.  When a co-worker called to check on something, I commented that I couldn’t seem to get my s*%t together that day and had been staring at the computer for a couple hours.

“I can’t feel my nose,” I told her, pressing my icy fingers against the icy tip of it.  “My hands and feet are numb.”

“Call Employee Assistance,” she ordered me like a drill sergeant.  “Get off the phone and do it now.”

That defining moment was in 2002.   For sixteen years, I’ve wanted to SLOW DOWN.  I got a break then, taken out of work for a six week respite.  Went through a misdiagnosis of depression that was really sleep deprivation.  Got laid off in a RIF.  Stepped away from the white collar world and into the line side of commercial aviation and loved it.

Managed to raise the two boys – not always as successfully as we’d like, but they are decent people who aren’t perfect.  Welcome to life.

And still, I want to slow down.

That’s the underlying drive of this blog.  It’s about slowing down.  I don’t mind working hard, but then I want to take a break and just sit and savor…maybe at a little cafe in the south of France.   Or look out a window at snow-covered silence while a fire glows next to me.

When I started the blog, I had one image of how my life would be.  That has evolved, as did my work and financial needs.  But that yearning to slow down, to have time to savor beauty and serenity and sit next to my husband with a glass of wine and watch the sunset…that hasn’t changed.

So, I’m resurrecting this concept and throwing open the doors for discussion of the idea of not working year round.  Let’s do this.

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Dilemma du jour…is it WORTH it?

I’m exhausted.

I’m not sure I fully realized how much those “free” weeks that teachers get during holidays and the summer are actually COMP time for the insane hours the job requires during the year.

My situation is compounded by being a “first-year” teacher with three different levels of my subject, in a topic I love but for which my skills are “rusty.”  This requires even MORE time as I have to study even beyond my prior knowledge to be able to TEACH.

I am not doing ANY creative work at all – the blog, art, photography, writing fiction…NOTHING.

So, then, at what price to me is the opportunity to give up some of that free time for additional well-compensated income that I genuinely need?

How much is your time worth? What can you do to change it?

It’s not hard to calculate – take your earnings and divide them by how many hours you work.  If you are paid hourly, and are paid for every hour worked, it’s a fairly easy number to figure.  It’s more complex if you are salaried and work in excess of the standard 40-hour US work week.

But wait…what about time that is attached to work but for which you aren’t compensated?  Commute time is probably the biggest. How about time spent studying or reviewing material at home?  How long does it take you to get ready for work?  These things all dilute your hourly rate of compensation.

So, what is your time really worth?  In other words, flip it around…what does it COST you to give up an hour of your time for some amount of compensation?

Now is it worth it?

Do I continue to pick-up extra work during downtime I desperately need for income that I also need? Even if I love the work, I keep circling back to an essential question…is it worth it?

I don’t have an answer.  I have something that I love doing, for which I am well-compensated.  But it is only available for about six weeks a year, and a few weekends.  I can’t live on it.    And right now, my spirit needs those hours.  Maybe more than my wallet.  Sigh.

 

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Slow Down, You’re Going Too Fast….

“You gotta make the morning last…”

What a great song AND a great message.  Can you believe this is from the sixties?   Here’s the original from Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme album.  Feelin’ Groovy

And then this article from today’s Foxnews Health about a village in Italy that is home to over 300 people who are over 100 years old.   The Good Life in Italy

The older I get the more the urge to SLOW DOWN grows.  I find myself wanting to detach from my smart phone, for example.  It’s smarter than I am anyway.   Stop eating standing at the kitchen counter and go sit outside somewhere and savor my meal.   Check email once a day.  Seriously, if it’s urgent, the person can call me on the cell phone.  Oh…wait.  SIGH.

I have this daydream of slow everything.  Slow travel – where I go somewhere for more than three days and leisurely learn the local’s secrets, along with the best time of day to take pictures and to  take a nap.   Slow eating – where I cook from fresh ingredients purchased that day.  Moseying through that meal with great conversation and yes, a glass of vino.  Slow work – getting it done right the first time without rushing, or pressure, or cranky co-workers.   Slow reading – drinking in the words of a novel instead of squeezing them into gaps in the day.  A slow bike ride, to see nature instead of try to get the right number of steps in for the day.

SLOWER.  Everything slower.  I need a bumper sticker.  The Slow Life.

Anyone feel that way too?   Pick a day this week, any day, and live it slowly.  I’ll share my attempt in a future post.

 

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Frozen

Take a look at this turtle will you?  That position he/she is holding, one leg forward one up in back…he/she held it frozen for several minutes while I loitered on a bridge above snapping photos.

Maybe “it” hoped I would think it was just another sculpture among the many in this park?

Maybe it figured if I was a predator I might not notice it if it didn’t move.  Kind of like a dinosaur.

And the whole time I’m thinking, “You and me, turtle.  Analysis Paralysis.  Do I stay or do I go?  Take the plunge?  Jump into the water? Sit frozen in the lovely sunlight and hope potentially bad things (like being eaten by a predator) don’t happen?”

In a world SO filled with things that I want to do, why is it so hard to do them?   Is it because what is easy to do, is easy NOT to do as well?

I was on an assignment for a photography class.   While most of my fellow attendees had boarded a bus for downtown Palm Springs, I opted for this park.  I wanted to visit a sculpture honoring victims of the Holocaust – it struck me that in this desert town inland California there would be such a piece of art.

But I had stopped at the pond, entranced by the clusters of turtles sunning on the sides.  As I approached, they’d launched themselves into the water, swimming for their lives.

Except this guy.   Frozen.  My buddy.

My frozen is different, of course. Do I stay the course and work on a full-time income via various freelancing gigs?  Or do I acquiesce to the realities and pressures of where we are now, and seek traditional employment again?

The pragmatic versus the plan.   The heart versus the head.  The Dreamer versus the Realist.

I waited.  He/she/it waited.

And while I stood frozen, camera poised, in the stillness, the answer.  In the peace of the moment, a flash of clarity.   From a few weeks of “which way do I go” to a pinpoint answer of “that way.”

My shoulders unhinged – that stunning moment of relaxation where the tension just flows away like runoff from a storm.   THAT way.  Go THAT way right now.    I took a great big inhale of the sauna temperature air (it was 95F…in April) and released a slow breath.

My little friend, picking up on my slight movement, blasted into the water.

THAT way.  Go that way.

You got it buddy.   Thanks.

 

 

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Just Take a Deep Breath and Hit Reset

I apologize for NOT being much of a blogger lately.

I am certain some will understand the notion of things just happening that set us back.  Nothing earth-shattering for me.  Just stuff, you know?

My computer hard drive failed.   Four weeks with the computer doctor and most of my documents and pictures ultimately salvaged.

I came down with a case of shingles.  Attention my friends!  PLEASE get the vaccine.  I don’t care how old or young you are.  Technically, I was not in a risk group, so my doctor had not suggested I get the shot.  We caught it early, and the medicine kept it from spreading, but I did still deal with a fair amount of discomfort for several weeks.

Pup is still a handful.

Finally caught up on my studies in my Educator Prep program for my teaching certificate – another victim of the damaged computer.  And, last week I passed the first of three state exams.  Whew.  One down.

So, how goes semi-retirement?

Eh…let’s be honest.  I am not EXACTLY where I want to be.

But, I am making progress.  I have been able to spend a great deal of time with my still-at-home teenage son, and he seems to be in a better place.   I worked six days during Spring break at the National Flight Academy.

Last weekend, I was very lucky to get to take a short cruise up the west coast.   One morning, my roommate and I got up early to watch the ship arrive in Victoria, BC, and I got to experiment a little with my new (used) camera.

I love seeing the sunrise (although alarm clocks, not so much).  It’s a good time to take a deep breath, and welcome the dawn of a new day.   I finally seem to be to a point where I am not so far behind that I think I’m in front.

It’s the season for summer job postings and applications.  I’ve got my summer gig lined up teaching middle and high school kids cool math and science through aviation.   If you want a seasonal job in the US, they are plentiful during the summer.   What will it be?  Driving a tour bus in Alaska?   Giving tours at the Grand Canyon?  Tending bar on the outer banks?

Why not give something new a try this year?

Lots of good opportunities at Coolworks Seasonal Job Site.

 

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Choosing Gratitude

So…just before Christmas we got a dog.

A puppy, actually.  She was ten weeks old when we adopted her from a shelter group.  My son had been begging for a dog, a puppy specifically, for YEARS.  My husband didn’t want to take it on.  But, I felt a pull that it was the right thing to do.

I was wrong.

So now, we have a dog.   She’s going to be huge.  At 4 months, she weighs 28 lbs.  She is smart enough to be hard to train.  She bites.  Well, they call it “mouthing” but when a dog is her size, it’s biting. She gets “puppy frenzy” and gets so crazed we have to crate her or hold her tight til she comes down.  Efforts to teach her good doggie manners so far are mixed.

Everyone in the house is exhausted, and we’ve had to all change our processes so that she gets taken out on time, doesn’t spend too long in the crate, etc.  We have walls built to block her from parts of the house, and we all have to climb over, or shift objects to get around them.  The love seat is full of the dining room chairs to keep her from chewing on it, and now we all eat at the kitchen counter because there aren’t any chairs at the dining room table…

I’ve regretted the decision to get her.  But my son is very bonded with her, and truthfully, I love the furry little bitch too.   She has the sweetest face, and I know there’s the heart of a very good dog in there.

Somewhere.

In the midst of this, in my excellent Leonie Dawson planner, one of the goals I set for myself in 2016 was to be more grateful in general.  And specifically for what I HAVE.

Doing a six-week status update/review with myself last evening, I had to think a lot about 30 pounds of puppy whipcord and spring steel.  And I realized that I owe her some gratitude.

Thanks to her relentless desire to be outside, and our lack of a fence, I’ve gotten to know my backyard again.  I’ve been out at all hours and temperatures tethered to her leash while she finds the perfect place to deposit her umpteenth digestive action of the day.  I’ve noticed in the dark, how lovely the Florida room looks at night, windows all around and and the light from within casting a glow.

I’ve taken a deck chair out to the middle of the yard and just sat so she could sniff and meander at the end of the leash.  And looked up at a honk to see five Canadian geese do a low and slow flyby.  A pair of hawks is nesting two houses over, and their flight path glides right over our house and yard.

I’ve given moments of love to our leaning towers of pine trees. Three of them in the back yard, all with about a ten degree lean to the northwest thanks to Hurricane Ivan’s fierce Category III winds in 2004.

Lamenting the lack of care that has allowed most of our yard to fall in to disrepair, I’ve found a way to put her on a stake and leash, and me to rake pine needles and pick up pine cones.  I spent over an hour one crisp Saturday morning pulling prickly vines away from the house.

I’ve become an ant murderer.

My son and I have laughed over the torture of poop patrol, our noses stuffed with peppermint oil scented cotton balls. We work as a team to gather the crud – I spot, he scoops.  The dog and the yard seem to run on a similar schedule.  She needs a bath about the same time the yard gives off eau de manure to excess.

When he is in school and I am NOT substituting, I have to do everything in two hour segments.  She naps I work.  When she’s up, all attention is on her.  Yes, JUST like a baby. This works some days and others thrusts me in to overwhelm,  But no doubt, it is a discipline I needed.

And no matter how much I scold her, or fuss when she tries to chew on my Persian carpet, or bellow when she nips my tush…no matter what, when I come to get her out of the crate when I get home from school, or after we’ve been out for several hours, no matter what, she is so happy to see me.  She wiggles and whimpers little happy sounds, and rolls over for a tummy rub.

I think then, maybe, I wasn’t wrong after all.

 

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Daring to Be Divergent

If I lived in the dystopian future world of Veronica Roth’s young adult novel series, I’d probably be divergent.   Thank goodness that doesn’t involve jumping from moving trains or hand-to-hand combat in today’s world.

(And on a complete thread drift – if you have read the Divergent novels…what did you think of book three, Allegiant?  I HATED it.  Completely ruined the series for me.)

Okay, so in these novels, and the accompanying movies, people were slotted at a young age into a fixed personality type. Each group performed specific tasks in the community.  Divergents could fit into more than one of the groups, and were considered dangerous outcasts.

It’s not so different in some ways now, when someone goes to school to be some ONE thing for their entire life.   Many many people are perfectly content with this and it works well for them. And those of us who don’t fit that model well are often criticized for not “sticking with anything.”

Divergents.   We like LOTS of different things.  Constant change.  Constant learning.  Once we’ve mastered something, boredom sets in. Our definition of doing something doesn’t necessarily extend to mastering it.  I’ve given the example before of the person who wants to learn to play the cello.  He or she might not want to BE a cellist, but wants to know HOW it works.  How to make it sing, how to hold it, how the notes work.

So, how does this fit into The Semi-Retired Life?  Well, in my ideal vision, I’d actually do two to three different quarter or half year long jobs each year.   But, I can also do work for 8 – 10 months a year and take one longer break and be very happy.

The key is in the break. It’s about the time OFF.

That’s where the magic lies.  The chance to take anywhere from one to three months and go do something totally different is often enough of a change of place to reinvigorate our interest in our work.  It’s the concept behind a sabbatical.  Unfortunately, only academia and some of the newer high-tech companies tend to embrace it.

So for me, Divergent means that I love to teach AND love to learn.  It means that I could be happy teaching math OR french.  I’d be ecstatic teaching BOTH – the perfect divergent solution would be half classes of math the other half classes of french.  Divergents make excellent teachers because they are such avid LEARNERS.

They also often tend to be the office Jack or Jill of-all-trades in the office or at a venue like a restaurant or resort.  They make great tradesmen (persons?) or general contractors.

Barbara Sher called us Scanners, BTW, long before the Roth novels. 🙂   Refuse to Choose

Are you Divergent?  Is that why a Semi-Retired Life appeals to you?  Or, do you just want more time off?

All ways work.

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

When I first graduated college and started out selling pharmaceuticals, I was stark-raving TERRIFIED of the work.  I suffered what is known in corporate selling circles as “call reluctance,” which is a fear of cold calling.

One of my trainers taught me the concept of Plan the Work. Work the Plan.   Although I never really enjoyed selling, that concept has stayed with and served me for years.

In short, it’s taking stock of where you want to be and what you have to do to get there.  Then, make a plan how you are going to do it.  It takes frank honesty of your strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes a big dose of patience and deferral.

If I pull back the curtain on my plan, you can see where I am versus where I want to be.  No mystery – I want to work three quarters of each year and take one quarter off.  BAM!  That’s it.  I am flexible WHICH three months I don’t work – so it’s not inconceivable that I might work four quarters before taking one off, depending on my options.

And, since I am a complete and total Barbara Sher Scanner, I’d love to do different things during the quarters I do work.  I may or may not be able to pull that off.  Time will tell.

But in planning for that, right this minute, I have a BIG obstacle in the form of my terrific teenage son.  He’s a junior in high school.  Since some of my wishes and dreams involve working or living elsewhere for a quarter – well, that can’t happen yet.  And that’s okay, because I want to be here with him during this time.  It’s a big part of why I went ahead and “retired” from my airline job.

So my PLAN is to set myself up to do seasonal or contract work three quarters a year – possibly here where I live, possibly elsewhere – after he is launched on the next part of his life.

Working my Plan means taking actions for the next year and a half that will set up to be where I want to be then.

For me, that means spending that time working very hard on getting more freelance articles published, and also putting this blog in front of people it could help.  It also means getting a JOB.

As a practical matter, bringing in a good solid regular income during that time period would help.  As much as I am enjoying my exposure to teaching, it might even turn out that is the perfect part-year job for me.

By working on publishing articles and this blog on the side, hopefully in eighteen months I will have a strong clip file, a tribe of fellow   Semi-Retiree buddies, and a list of jobs I’d love to tackle and take you along with me on the ride.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

 

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Dreams and Possibilities and Ideas

I don’t know about YOU, but I am seriously tired of talking about health insurance.

I know, I KNOW.  It is the THE thing that keeps many people locked in jobs that either suck up all their time, or suck up so much of the finances there’s nothing left.

I know.

So, let’s just all agree that in the U.S. at present, unless you have employer provided insurance, it’s a nightmare out there.   I’ll talk about it on the blog when it’s appropriate.  But, I don’t want this to be a blog about health insurance.

I want it to be a blog about dreams.

Dreams of having enough time off to do the things that really matter to YOU.   Dreams of freedom and creativity.  Dreams of travel.  Dreams of safe places for our loved ones, and safe spaces for our minds.

I want it to be a blog about possibilities.

Possibilities of trying things you always wanted to try, but couldn’t find the money.  More likely, couldn’t find the TIME.   Or everyone told you that you shouldn’t because you were too smart or too educated or too anything.

I want it to be a blog about ideas.

A place to get ideas.  A place to get ideas for ideas.  A place to mix ideas, and possibilities, and dreams into something that is different for each person that comes here.   That construct of life that works for YOU.   Doesn’t matter if it wouldn’t work for anyone else – no one else has to live it.  You do.

Going forward, I hope, fewer “articles” and more musings.  More dreams, possibilities, and ideas.

More.  Please.

I achieved many goals in 2015 and I’m doing my close out over the next two weeks.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What goals did I meet?  Where did I fall short?  What can I change?

Did you know only 1% of people actually do this?  Go back and review whether or not they met the goals they set?  Huh.  Me neither.

Interesting.  1%.  We hear that number often used in a derogatory manner.  Have to wonder if there’s a correlation though.

Have a great day!!

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Avoid Benefit Shock

In a nutshell, I have become an advocate for independence from the traditional U.S. work model.  By that, I mean the model where you exchange sometimes extraordinary amounts of time per week, and typically 49 – 50 weeks a year, for income and benefits.

It’s the benefits that can be the big “gotcha” of this arrangement.

First, I do want to make clear that I fully support, recognize, and value working, and am not anti-big business in any way.  I’m really a laissez-faire capitalist at heart.   I get the structure.  And I get that it works for companies and it works for most people.

I’m just not most people anymore.  If you’re reading this, you may not be either.

As you begin planning to re-structure your life away from the traditional working one into a Semi-Retired one, here are some of the expenses and impacts you will need to consider:

  • Self-Employment Taxes
  • Other Insurance
  • Discounts and Reimbursements
  • Credit Rating
Self-Employment Taxes

Depending on how your employment is structured, you may be responsible for paying the other half of the roughly 15% of your wage that goes to Social Security, FICA, and Medicare.   In a traditional employment structure, half of that is paid by the employer and half by the employee.

Check with your employer.   If you work full-time, but for a limited time like a season, the employer is likely paying this.  Your paycheck will provide a clue – are SS/FICA/Medicare taxes being withheld?

If you are running your own business as a Freelancer or Independent Contractor, this will become your responsibility.  Be sure to check with an accountant, preferably a tax expert, to make certain you are handling this properly.

Other Insurance

We have talked about health insurance ad nauseum already.

Additional coverages for dental, vision, life, and disability insurance typically do not have the hefty price tag of health insurance.  That said, if you want these types of policies, be sure to factor in that cost.

A good estimate to use for the value of workplace benefits is approximately 25 – 35% of your wage/salary/income.  The difference will largely be in how much of your current health insurance premium value your employer pays.

To get a feel for how much you will need to earn to REPLACE your current income, take your monthly gross amount (before taxes are withheld) and multiple it by 1.25 and 1.35.  This will give you a range to work with.

That said, replacing your income entirely may not be your goal or need.   Just be aware that you will likely need more income to net the same amount without benefits.

Reimbursements/Discounts

Be sure to include in your budget things that your employer reimburses that will go away when you leave or retire.  Cell phone?  Parking? Transportation? Internet?   What about discounts you receive on any of these through your employer?

Credit Rating

Got a stellar credit rating?  Don’t be surprised to see it take a dip if you are not “employed.”   Even if you don’t miss a payment on something or go into more debt.

Wow…with those negatives, why would anyone leave traditional employment?  Well, often they don’t.  It’s a time-for-money exchange.  There’s a level of security in it that goes beyond just the take-home pay.

The flip side is a loss of time freedom.  Free time to do and see and be the what, where, and who you want.  It’s not about not working.  It’s about the time OFF.

My goal is to structure my  employment life to get substantially more of that in longer segments.

How about you?

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.